Compare and contrast W.H Auden's 'Stop all the Clocks' with Maya Angelou's 'When I think of death'

In this essay I will be comparing ‘Stop all the clocks’ by WH Auden with ‘When I think of death’ by Maya Angelou. Auden is mourning his lovers death where as in ‘Death’ Angelou is expressing an opinion about death, she is not mourning a bereavement. Angelou’s mood is thoughtful and reflective as explained in the title of her poem ‘When I think of death’. On the other hand Auden seems to be angry but melancholic when he uses imperatives in his title ‘Stop all the clocks’ and at the start of each line, such as ‘cut’, ‘prevent, ‘silence’, ‘bring’.

These commands make him impatient. He also seems bitter by saying’ I thought love would last forever. I was wrong’.

In ‘clocks’ Auden seems to act selfishly and bitterly by saying’ stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone’, he uses imperatives such as ‘silence’ and ‘cut’ to command actions. Auden implies that death should be an event and you should ‘bring out the coffin’ for the funeral and everyone should ‘stop’ and watch an important event, showing respect.

Where as in ‘Death’ Angelou creates an impression that everybody dies but they might not want to, ‘I am unable to accept the death of anyone else’ suggests that she knows that they will die, but when they do her ‘anger will follow in its wake’.

The mood and atmosphere in ‘Clocks’ is melancholic ‘for nothing now can ever come to any good’ emphasises the magnitude of his loss, Auden is also quite bitter ‘I was wrong’ and he shows acts of selfishness when he commands everyone to ‘stop’ and ‘prevent the dog from barking’ even if they don’t want to.

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In ‘Death’ the mood is calm and thoughtful because Angelou understands and ‘seems at peace with the idea’ of death. Angelou seems to be hiding a secret in the ‘valley of strange humors’, which leaves the poem open ended, where as Auden has created a sense of utter finality by stating ‘for nothing now can ever come to any good’.

Auden uses rhyming couplets and progresses between each stanza from inside, to outside, to space and the Earth. Angelou uses free verse and it seems as if she is talking to herself, she portrays a personal response. The penultimate stanza in ‘Death’ is interesting because I can relate to a loved one dying and not being able to do anything about it. The quote ‘anger follows in its wake’ may mean that she is angry because someone else didn’t prevent the death, or that the anger is aimed at herself for not visiting or being around them recently, or she might be thinking ‘why them, not me?’. The quote ‘pack up the moon and dismantle the sun’ in ‘Clocks’ is an impossible and unrealistic thing to do, but it represents the fact that Auden has no reason to live now that his lover has died.

‘Clocks’ gives me memorable images but most are unrealistic, ‘pack up the moon and dismantle the sun’, ‘let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead scribbling on the sky He Is Dead’, both are unlikely events. It is also moving when Auden states ‘he was my north, my south, my east and west’ because he is announcing that someone special has died. ‘Death’ however is realistic but ambiguous, because Maya can accept her own death but not anyone else, it is also highly personal and only portrays her thoughts on death, therefore it is thoughtful and reflective.

Overall I prefer ‘Stop all the clocks’ because it is unrealistic but memorable, which leaves me thinking about how unique the poem is.

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Compare and contrast W.H Auden's 'Stop all the Clocks' with Maya Angelou's 'When I think of death'. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

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